The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova.
I read this one back on 2005 when it was published. Since then, I bought the audiobook and have listened to it at least seven times. The story draws me in for many reasons.
I agree with the Wikipedia description:
“The plot blends the history and folklore of Vlad Țepeș and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula. Kostova’s father told her stories about Dracula when she was a child, and later in life she was inspired to turn the experience into a novel…The Historian has been described as a combination of genres, including Gothic novel, adventure novel, detective fiction, travelogue, postmodern historical novel, epistolary epic, and historical thriller. Kostova was intent on writing a serious work of literature and saw herself as an inheritor of the Victorian style. Although based in part on Bram Stoker‘s Dracula, The Historian is not a horror novel, but rather an eerie tale. It is concerned with history’s role in society and representation in books, as well as the nature of good and evil. As Kostova explains, “Dracula is a metaphor for the evil that is so hard to undo in history.” The evils brought about by religious conflict are a particular theme, and the novel explores the relationship between the Christian West and the Islamic East.”
I love the way she wrote the novel, modeling it on the style of Stoker’s Dracula: in letters and diaries. But additionally, Kostova made it an intriguing travelogue.
Through her descriptions, in my imagination I have visited Istanbul,
The Smithsonian Institute in DC,
A monastery in the Pyrenees which she calls St. Mathieu des Pyrenees Oriental,
Cafes in the French countryside
(with mouth-watering descriptions of the food),
And many other places.
I’ve also learned much of the history and atmosphere of the above-named cities, especially so much I hadn’t known previously about the Ottoman Empire.
So even though the evil Count, who is the Historian of the title, threads through and unites the narrative, there is so much more to this novel.